Rated: GC · Short Story · Contest · #1828918
How long must a courtship be?
* * * *
The sound from the tracks kept clicking in his brain; clickety-clack, clickety-clack, over and over again. The monotonous crescendo was wearing a pathway into his brain. The train was traveling towards Sparta, in Wisconsin, his old hometown so many years ago.
Didn’t matter much now, since there was so little to return to, but there was nowhere else he could go to reconnect to his past. Captain Michael Masters, late of the U. S. Infantry, was on his way back to where it all began. Enlisting just after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, Private Masters went through a brief boot camp, and was immediately shipped to the front, a couple of thousand miles away.
Captain? Well, when they ran out of live bodies to form groups of fighters, one could advance through the ranks pretty fast, he mused. The rows of ribbons on his chest challenged that thought, however, as did the scars that embraced his body, bearing bleak evidence of hard service.
He’d requested an isolated seat on the train, not for his own comfort, but for the peace of mind of fellow passengers. Indeed, he’d occupied this single car alone until a stop in Philidelphia brought aboard a single addition. He was seated near the front of the car, and the new rider walked down the aisle past him towards the rear, stopping for a moment to acknowledge him, nodding politely, and continuing down the car towards the rear trailing a soft sensuous fragrance in her wake.
Sighing, he retreated back into his own mind, dealing with his demons; nightmares that he’d worked to escape by refusing sleep. The hypnotic cadence of the tracks worked just as hard to sabotage his efforts, and finally, he slipped into his private hell once more.
Explosions always began his hell, and the acrid smell of blood and cordite filled his nostrils. The sight of broken bodies filled his vision, scattered in response to a vicious bombardment of heavy artillery. As before, he felt tears filling his eyes as death spread its grip all about him. The sounds of conflict were deafening, his sobs absorbed by the impacts of hate and destruction. God had left the world, he thought.
Foul smells of war and destruction were interrupted by something new; a strangely familiar scent interrupting his pain, bringing his thoughts back from hell; back to a world that he vaguely remembered from his youth. Lavender… Lavender? Where was this coming from? His hell was fading before its presence, and a peace was falling on his tortured soul. His tears continued to fall, but now as a palliative to his emotional turmoil.
The screeching of the train brakes brought him back to the real world abruptly, and cautiously, he examined his current posture. His head was embraced by lovely arms, his face pressed into the soft breast of the young lady he’d spied earlier. She appeared to be asleep, but when he tried to raise his head, she immediately uttered, “Shhhhh…… It’s all right, it’s over now. Sleep, my captain…” Her fingers combed through his hair, gently, carefully, as though to protect him from his thoughts, and he gave himself up to the feelings.
When he next awoke, the scent of lavender still filled his nostrils, but he noted that the lady was now seated back near the rear of the car. Embarrassed, he felt compelled to approach her with an apology. The nightmares were what compelled him to request an empty car to ride in, after all.
Standing beside her, he noticed things that he’d overlooked before. Large brown eyes, long black hair, pulled into a ponytail, dressed in a stylish black business suit. Her abbreviated jacket had fashionably padded shoulders, open in front to display a crisp, white blouse, buttoned to her throat. Petite, he thought, but stunning. As he examined her, she’d raised her head to look into his eyes. Thrusting out her right hand, she simply said, “Sarah; Sarah Daley.” Reflexively, he took it, and began to apologize, but she cut him off shortly. “No need to apologize, captain. I invaded your space by insisting to ride in this car.” He was suddenly at a loss for words. The seductive scent of lavender hung in the air, and he suddenly felt like an open book.
“Look,” she continued. “I’m alone right now and could use some company. Could you see it in your heart to sit with me and chat a bit?” Disarmed by her candor, he could only nod his head. Then she reached out, took his hand once more, and pulled him into the seat beside her. Clearing his throat, he began, “Uhm..., my name is…” “Michael,” she finished. “I saw your name on your duffle bag. You don’t mind, do you?” Again, Mike could only shake his head. His only thought at the moment was, ‘How beautiful.’
Sitting beside her, he was captivated by her homely conversation, and answered questions regarding his past and present pretty much in monosyllables, collecting his own questions mentally, meaning to drop them on her whenever she finished. He learned a bit about her in a very short period, and this innocent information was silently casting a net of emotional entrapment about him. She had captured his total attention, and his psyche demanded more of her magic.
The touch of her hand on his arm as she spoke to him brought him into her world, completely, and he dwelt on every word that came out of her beautiful mouth. Four years of war-torn pacific action had put all of his social activities on hold, and returning to CONUS had not prepared him for a vision of this magnitude. Before he knew, she had extracted more about him and his life than he’d ever disclosed to any stranger, but he didn’t mind.
He was returning to an abandoned auto repair business, kept in receivership by an uncle assigned custodian by the courts once his parents had passed away. This was a business that he’d intended to revive with his savings and mustering out money from the army. He was a mechanic; a really good one from his experience with his father and the army, and it was his passion. The business was still known by the sign over its entrance, ‘Masters & Son’, and he had no desire to change it once he revived it.
The scent of lavender, the soft soothing sound of her voice, and the fatigue of many sleepless nights finally ensnared his senses, and he fell into a deep sleep; dreamless for a change. The next time he awoke, the conductor was walking through the car, announcing the imminent arrival of their train at Akron, Ohio. Sarah had her head planted under his jaw, and her arm draped around his shoulder, clutching him as though she were afraid that he might disappear when she awoke.
Stirring, she moaned and nuzzled her head a bit closer into his shoulder, and Mike felt that this was ‘natural’, bringing his arm around her shoulder as well. Looking at her sleeping face, he thought about angels, and the coincidence that had brought her to him, or him to her. His incessant nightmares had ceased since he’d encountered her, and he was finally looking forward to a future of some sort, without the welcoming committee of relatives and friends that he’d hoped for and knew no longer existed.
He knew that her stop was about sixty-some miles from his from their previous conversation, so he let her sleep. Besides, he thought, he loved watching her face as she slept, and the feelings that he had as she clung to him. If only, he thought—if only she belonged to him. He bent down, kissed her forehead, and leaned back to doze off once again. For the first time in 5 years, he felt at ease, and willing to accept sleep on its own terms, without reservation.
The next stop was Chicago, and the conductor stepped through their car quietly, nodding to him and moving on. Sarah, awake at last, looked up into his face and said, “I’m a willful woman, Mr. Masters, and since you are not meeting anyone at your destination, and since the day after tomorrow is Thanksgiving, you will be joining me for dinner. I’ll not accept any other answer, sir. I don’t wish to dine alone.”
Her eyes stayed firmly on his, and the 6 foot 2 inch veteran backed down, and quietly accepted her invitation. After all, he thought, she’d learned nearly everything about him, and he still knew very little about her. That being said, she returned her head to his shoulder, and nodded back off to sleep. So it went until a brief stop in Milwaukee, where the couple managed to maintain their solitude despite the train taking on a few more passengers. They were delayed when a funeral train, full of veteran remains from the world’s battlefields passed on ahead, it’s morbid deliveries still ahead of it. Mike bowed his head and said a silent prayer as the conductor informed them of the delay.
They finally arrived in Mauston at about 3:00 am, and woke a sleepy taxi driver to make the short trip to where Sarah lived. A small cottage on the outskirts of the city, Mike noted the neat, tidy little front yard, complete with a white picket fence, and helped her bring her luggage into it. Turning to leave, he felt her hand on his arm, and she said, “No need for that Mr. Masters, I DO have a guest room, so you don’t need to feel you’re imposing on me. I’ll need your assistance to shop tomorrow, and I don’t want to hunt for you. Okay?” Again, feeling outnumbered, he nodded assent.
After a quick stop to bathe in her small tub to scrub some grime from the trip off his body, Mike looked forward to sleeping in a real bed for a change, not a cot or railroad seat. With the scent of lavender still in his nostrils, he fell into the deep sleep of the dead.
She slipped into his room during the night like a puff of wind, and observed him carefully, fretfully, thinking that what she was going to do was madness. It was madness, she thought, for she’d not touched another man since Jamie’s death, nearly three years ago. Her mama had told her that she’d know when her period of grieving was over; the Almighty would give her a sign. Could it be that the war that had taken her husband had taken pity on her, and returned some happiness? This had to be it, she decided, and like a thief, crept into his bed.
A dream, he thought, still groggy from his deep sleep. A warm, very nude body was wrapped around his; laced with the scent of lavender. His mind was still puzzling over this strange dream when he felt a small hand travel smoothly across his chest, move over his stomach, ending up in his pubic hair, just above his very erect cock. Quick breaths of warm air against his neck, and a sharp nip from small teeth on his chest spurred him into action. If this is a dream, he thought, then let it be one of his best!
Grabbing the figure next to him, he twisted her under his body, but not before she’d grabbed his cock in her hand. Neither relinquishing their grip, the couple became embroiled in a ‘deadly embrace,’ each determined to unleash their pent-up lust upon the other. Hunger, thirst, desperation was all that defined that night. Mike had no trouble lining up his cock on his companions’ pussy, as she finally let go of it when she’d gotten it on target. He didn’t hesitate a second, as he rammed his cock deeply into her body, and when she’d thrust her hips into his in return, it became a battle to see who would surrender first.
Oddly enough, at least for him, she came first, screaming into his neck, and that triggered his own, spraying her womb with years of frustration, bringing them down together in exhaustion. He finally thought he’d died and gone to heaven. He’d never had a Thanksgiving like this.
The next morning he found himself alone in bed, but the damp evidence of his dream remained. The smell of coffee and bacon filled the air, along with the familiar scent of lavender. Wondering if there was going to be any awkwardness that morning, he arose, cleaned up and wandered into the kitchen. His first glimpse of her took his breath away; she was a vision. Even dressed in form-fitting bib-overalls and penny loafers, she looked like an angel.
“Sit,” she said. “We have a lot to talk about.” He’d not been able to find his duffle bag when he awoke, and had simply pulled on his pants. Turning towards him, she suddenly fell silent, staring at his chest and arms with a shocked look on her face. She moved to him slowly, a small frown on her face. Reaching out with her hand, her fingers traced the scars that bore mute testimony of his ordeals during his war years. Finally, she leaned in to his chest and embraced him tightly. He felt tears running down his body, and wrapped her in his arms. The breakfast was ice cold before they got back to it.
Talk they did, and he began to find out a bit more about her as well. The day soon turned into a week, and their initial desperation turned into lovemaking; slowly, passionately, with extreme tenderness. All too soon, however, his vow of getting his father’s garage operating before Christmas pressed him to move on.
In so many ways, this departure was more painful for him than leaving home 5 years ago for the front. Sarah had accompanied him to the bus station in the taxi, and had kept a brave face, although he knew she was affected as deeply as he. A quick kiss, and she tearfully rushed back to the taxi and left the station.
With only a few weeks left until Christmas, Mike poured all of his time, energy and money into bringing the garage into working order before the Christmas deadline. Because of his war hero status, he had little trouble getting extra financing and help to clean up the neglect of 3 years of idleness. Utilities were turned on, the spaces swept and realigned for more modern equipment, soon to arrive from the factories. In the meantime, he began getting orders for vehicle repairs, repairs that had been postponed for lack of resources, and the rationing system that kept gasoline from all but vital services.
The rationing system was winding down slowly, and the nation began to return from the dark days of war. Mike found his skills in demand, but he had no time to find help to assist him in taking on the additional workload. He was swamped with many businessmen's dilemma; too much business.
December 21 came on him quickly, cold and filled with deadlines. All Mike could think about lately was the soothing week of homecoming that he’d experienced with Sarah. There was nothing that compared with that memory of their week together. He couldn’t help but wonder what she was doing during the remainder of the holidays. This Saturday he was finishing up work on a milk delivery truck, checking the differential for grease seal leaks.
The kerosene stove was just barely able to hold off the chill in the garage, and he was already thoroughly baptized in grease. A long, hot bath would be his reward this day, he thought. The strong odor of grease and gasoline filled his nostrils, and his mind drifted back to the soft scent of lavender that had captured his imagination just a couple of short weeks ago. Sarah, he thought, what have you done to me? He made a mental note to finish repairing his old beat-up ’39 Ford pickup by year’s end, and possibly take a trip back to Mauston to visit her.
As he was about to slide out from under the truck, he felt a sudden icy gust of wind sweep across him. Probably another crack in the old paneling that needs fixing, he thought. But then, he caught the scent of something familiar, but out of place in the garage. Thinking he was imagining things, he swung out from under the truck, got up and looked around for the source. Wiping his hands, he began to walk towards his office, when the door suddenly opened.
There, with a large suitcase in each hand, stood Sarah. As he overcame his shock, she began to speak. “Michael Masters, I warned you that I was a willful…” He cut her short with a passionate kiss, embracing her so hard that she dropped the suitcases to either side of them. Tears coursed down her cheeks, and she clung to him in desperation. She now shared his baptism of grease, at least on her face, and as their lips reluctantly separated, she sobbed out, “I don’t ever wish to dine alone again.”
Their ceremony was brief, but meaningful, just a week from that Saturday. He’d remember this Christmas forever, as would she.
As it turned out, his decision not to remove the ‘& Son’ from the sign over the garage saved him some paint nearly a year later. Just one more reason for both of them to remember the winter holidays of 1946.